Located in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, the Pueblo Grande Museum offers both indoor and outdoor attractions for every age level and interest. Focusing on Native Americans (specifically the Hohokam people), this engrossing and interactive museum and archaeological site is incredibly important as well as fun and educational.
The grounds that are now the archaeological park and museum was originally donated to the city of Phoenix in 1924, although it did not open as a museum until 1929. When it opened, a city archaeologist/museum director was hired, which was actually the first city archaeologist in existence in the United States. Now open for almost 90 years, the museum continues to draw both local and national visitors who want to know more about the people that originally lived on the land and their importance to the nation as a whole.
Main Gallery - The main gallery exhibit centers on exploring the Hohokam native people through their architecture, agriculture, and arts. The Hohokam had an incredible impact, both locally and nationally, as the canal system they invented is the basis of the canal system currently in use in the United States. This exhibit displays their focus on the arts through their pottery (Red-on-buff) and their jewelry (both stone and shell), as well as photomurals and hands on areas discussing the woven materials that the Hohokam found important (even though these materials do not preserve well enough to display). Also, visitors can learn about the “Big House,” which is said to have been used by the Native Americans for observing astronomy.
Children’s Gallery - Children love the hands-on exhibits located in the children’s gallery. Focusing on how archeologist identify and dig for artifacts, children will get to study clues, learn how to use those clues to identify different artifacts like pottery, and use magnets to create their own designs! There is also an orientation video for both children and their parents in the museum theater or create their own miniature version of a Hohokam village. There is also a stratigraphy (also known as an excavation) wall, where children can examine different layers of history for themselves.
Outdoor Trail - Walk through the actual Hohokam archeological site (known as Pueblo Grande). Explore the exhibit Doorways to the Past to see an adobe home (compound) as well as a pithouse cluster. There are also different agriculture and desert plant exhibits, like the agricultural garden (displaying the many crops grown there - corn, beans, squash) and the desert oasis. Visit the platform mounds (possibly built around 1150 AD) and see here they played sport (known as the ballcourt, which effectively is an arena although exactly what was played here remains unknown).
Museum collection - In addition to the specific artifacts pertaining to the Hohokam people, the museum also acts as a repository for the City of Phoenix as a whole. This collection also focuses on other southwestern Native American tribes (including Maricopa pottery) as well as documentary archives (like field notes, maps, and logs) and 40,000 photographic images.
Field trips and school tours are always welcome at the museum. Tours must be booked at least two weeks in advance by calling the museum, and they are scheduled Mondays through Fridays from October through April. Each tour can accommodate up to 60 students, and there must be one adult chaperone for every seven students present. Plan on at least an hour and a half to two hours for the tour, and there is a small fee per student. There are teacher’s packets available on the website so that teachers can plan their lessons ahead and they are welcome to visit the museum for a walk through at no cost prior to the field trip.
Please be aware that tour guides are not able to be guaranteed, as they are volunteers. There are no food options at the museum, so teachers should make sure to plan accordingly. There are, however, picnic tables and the museum are able to store sack lunches if the field trip falls around the lunch hour.
Visitors should make sure to stop at the store on their way out of the museum to both pick up a souvenir and also help support the museum, as money from each purchase goes back into the museum. There are Hopi dolls (Katsina), pottery, and fetish carvings, which are all made by local Native American artists.
Pueblo Grande Museum, 4619 E Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ, 85034, Phone: 602-495-0901